My Story: I Had A 9-Metre Fall, In Which I Fractured My Spine

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My Story: 'I Had A 9-Metre Fall, In Which I Fractured My Spine'

The 42-year-old Abhilash Tomy was the first Indian and second Asian to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation on a boat. He is a recipient of Kirti Chakra and Tenzig Norway National Adventure Award.

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I belong to Alapuzha in Kerala, but spent most of my childhood in naval bases since my father was in the Naval Police. I joined the Naval Academy in 1996 and was commissioned into the Forces in 2000. Two years later, I completed my flying training and qualified as a maritime reconnaissance pilot. I took a liking to sailing when I was a cadet. After sailing dinghies for a few years, I was appointed as the Yacht services manager for the Volvo Ocean race, which is a-round-the-world race. I had represented the country in several international events like the Cape Town to Rio race and two successive Korea Cups.


In 2006, the Navy authorized the construction of a 56 ft sailboat. In 2009-10, Cdr Donde sailed around the world in that boat- with four stops, Fremantle, Lyttelton, Port Stanley and Cape Town. I became the shore support for the naval officer and was sent to Goa. I sailed with Cdr Donde to Colombo and Mauritius for his training. After that, I was sent to Australia, New Zealand, Falkland and South Africa to support him. I was then sent from India to Brazil with three others, and to take part in another race. On the way back, it was just the two of us, and the other officer got down at Cape Town, and then I sailed back to India on my own.


Received A Ceremonial Welcome By The President

Now, I thought it was time for my solo-circumnavigation, so I started from Mumbai on 1 November 2021 and sailed for 23,100 nautical miles. I returned on 31 March 2013 to a ceremonial welcome by the President of India, Sh Pranab Mukherjee. After I was back, I was looking forward to the next adventure. I think in 2015, the golden globe race was announced and when I asked the organizers if I could take part in the race, they said that if I was coming, they would give me a special invitation. So, I built a boat for myself in India. The golden globe race is a celebration of the race of 1968 to find out who could sail the world non-stop. Out of 9 people, Sir Robin was the only one to finish the race, and his boat was built in India. So, I decided to build a replica of his boat for myself for the race.

The rules of the race were that you could only use the 1968 technology, so I had no GPS and modern gears. I took my boat to the Netherlands and then sailed to France. I started the race from France, and when I started, almost everyone opined that I would finish in the end, because my boat had the oldest design, and was the smallest and the slowest. However, after three months of racing, I was in the third position, but that was the time when we were hit by the storm, and I had a fall of about 9 meters, where I fractured my spine at four places.


Was Admitted 16 Days After The Accident

The accident happened in a very remote corner of the world, almost close to Antarctica. Four nations who got into a rescue operation for me. The French ship reached me after three-and-a-half days, and took me to a nearby island, called the Amsterdam Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy sent their ships to the island and I reached India sixteen days after the accident and was then admitted to a hospital for the first time. So, the doctors then operated on me and put in two rods in my spine. Within six months of the surgery, I was cleared again for flying and sailing.


I started getting back to the adventurous sea life, and now I am looking forward to the next Golden Globe Race. I took voluntary retirement from the Navy in January 2021 to have a life closer to the sea.

If you too have an inspiring story to tell the world, send us your story at mystory@thelogicalindian.com

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Editor : Snehadri Sarkar
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Creatives : Ratika Rana

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